There was one more working day before the weekend. When the weekend finally came I spent almost all of Saturday on the bike riding all over town. I enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of life in Aster. The sights and sounds prompted memories which were so real they made ache for the old days. At least as much as I could manage to ache with the equipment I had on hand at the time.
I stopped at the dog house and relived the memory of Gus for a few minutes. The man behind the counter remembered me as Gus’s friend, more than he remembered me as Maxine the stone cold bitch. I appreciated that, since Gus just might have been the real love of my life. Yeah I know there was a complicated daddy thing going on there. I never said there wasn’t some things wrong with me.
I absolutely was not looking for wrongs to right that day. I was just trying to pleasantly pass the time until my Sun day after church meeting. I should have just kept on pedaling when I saw them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The geek just looked too much like one of my doctors from the farm. He also had those dancing eyes that have always melted my heart, Terror is a compelling motivating force for me, even if it is someone else’s terror.
The younger men who surrounded him didn’t seem to want anything more than to bully him. I could have called the cops, who would have done nothing, or I could have pedaled on by and done nothing myself. That’s what I should have done, because if one of those kids got hurt, the cops would most likely take too close a look at me.
So the idea that I was supposed to have superior reasoning power was bullshit. I’m not sure where I fit onto that scale, but I knew I wasn’t going to ride away. I had seen too much of that kind of crap to just let it go. That’s when I realized that I was more than the hardwire and software. My memories allowed me to make emotional computations right along side the logical ones. I wondered if the geeks had any idea that might happen. I also wondered how the Eve class bots would handle the same situation.
I rode the bike up behind the bullies fast. I swung the tail end around fishtail style. It was what I had seen teenage boys do when they were showing off. When I did it the rear wheel of the bike clipped one of the boys. He didn’t go down but he staggered back giving me time to get off the falling bike. I might have gotten a bruise or two, if I hadn’t been me. Instead I came off without a mark.
“Hey what you doing Puta?” the one who wasn’t stumbling around holding his leg asked.
“Hey, I’m rescuing my man from some punk assed thug wanna bes,” I said.
“What you doing talking street you old puta,” he asked.
“Maybe your momma didn’t whip your ass enough nene,” I said.
“You think because you are old, and a woman I won’t fuck you up?” he asked.
“I think you probably would, if you thought it would make you look like a real man. So if you think beating women and geeks will make someone think you are more than a nene, give it your best shot.”
The Geek had slipped away, which was fine with me. I did not need to worry about taking care of him I had to find just the right amount of force to use on the two thugs.
When the kid moved toward me quickly, I moved to the side and hit him with a stream of pepper spray. The canister was empty with that one shot. I did have the stun gun ready for the second one who decided quickly that his momma was calling him.
“Nene, you need to get somewhere and wash your eyes out. I will be around keeping an eye on you, so don’t do this again. Keep your bullshit antics out of my park.” I should have just gone away after I sprayed him. I did not need to play Wyatt Earp, or would I be considered Calamity Jane Canary. I had never heard of a ‘Calamity Jane’ syndrome, so maybe I was breaking even more new ground.
I got through the rest of Saturday night and Sunday morning with nothing more than a sarcastic word from a clerk in the Wal-mart store. I didn’t even bother to report her. It was moving toward Christmas and I knew her life was miserable enough without me making it worse.
“Reverend Archer it is good to see you again,” I said as he stepped from his car in the parking lot outside the West End Mission. He had delivered his sermon at the rather well to do church a few blocks away. We were standing in the parking lot where his ministry began. It was also the parking lot where Helen still delivered food for the elderly.
The mission provided one hot and hardy meal for seniors every week. Helen had been delivering her leftovers from the catering business for almost two years. She could have used the left overs in her restaurant or her food truck, but it wasn’t her way. Me, her, Archer, and a stray dog made the deal two years before. We had all lived up to our parts.
The Reverend never had a problem which we couldn’t solve with the help of God and a few of my friends. The one man who tried to bring it all down, had fled to Europe where he ran into my friend Vlad. I had really wanted to see to him myself, but it was more important that his evils ways end.
“I took the liberty of inviting Helen as well,” I said to Archer.
“I was hoping Jennifer would be here,” He said hugging Helen.
“I probably should have invited her, but you know how lawyers are. She would want to be paid. Brownie points in heaven don’t mean much to them,” I said.
“Possibly,” Archer said. “So what is the thing that needs to be done.” Archer asked once we were seated at a small table in room full of seniors.
“It’s like this, our economy is in the toilet. A lot of it is because we sent our jobs to Mexico and China. The crap jobs I’m not so sure we are going to ever bring back. Whatever comes back will be because the next generation of kids is prepared for them.”
“Yes, I to have been thinking along those lines,” he agreed.
“So there are college loans, and there are savings plans for parents to invest in their kids, but what there isn’t, is a plan for the kids of these displaced workers. The community colleges need a big ass face lift. Nobody is going to support a huge amount of money to put them on a par with a university. So what I have been asking myself is how can we, the people, make them work better.”
“Oh you have and what have you decided.” he asked more amused than interested.
“I have decided that the Green County Community College needs housing that these kids can afford. They also need work programs so that the kids can eat. If they have the balls to tough it out a year or two, in order to learn a trade, we owe it to them to help them at least survive.”
“Admirable sentiments, but how do you plan to do it?” Archer asked.
“I don’t know that’s why I’m here talking to you two. Tell me what you need to do, so that we can provide housing for the kids who attend the community college here. We also have to do it at a very, very low cost.
I don’t want to give them apartments like the ones I converted from your old motel. I’m thinking more private dormitories. Ones that can be controlled to make a decent environment. If you are here to work and get your shit together, we are going to help. If not, we are going to put your punk ass on the street. It is a youth hostel with a purpose in my mind.
Then we need jobs for them. Some of them are going to be in a world of shit financially,” I said
“So what do I do?” Helen asked.
“What can you do hon. I know you will do all you can,” I said.
“Well we could do school cafeteria kind of meals, if we can get a subsidy” Helen paused a moment then added, “Maxine this is going to be a pain in the butt to do, you do realize that don’t you.”
“Yes I know but ask Sylvia if it is worth it. I am just one of the members of her team on this one. If you do it, do it because you believe in the cause, not because I asked you. This is likely to be a thankless crappy endeavor, but I think it needs doing, or we may become a ‘has been’ country like some of those in Europe.”
“We can make the model for the government to support in other places,” Archer said.
“Reverend, you do believe in the hand of government,” I said.
“Well we can use all the hands we can get for this, since it is a ground up operation.” he said.
“I’m going to put Sylvia here in charge of this, so if you need anything or have any ideas, she is the one to call. I will be available at anytime time to help out in any way.” I said.
“Just being who you are will help, I’m sure,” Sylvia said.
Sylvia rode home with me, since she rode up with me as well. Her scooter was inside my back door. We had turned my rear entrance hallway into a parking space for her.
She sat with a glass of wine looking out my window as we waited for the sun to go down. It sat early in the winter, but not as early as when we finished our meeting. “Would you like to take my woody to run errands?” I asked. “I know it’s got to be hard to get groceries on a scooter.”
“Actually I find I can do almost anything with that scooter which I could do with a small car. It’s not a substitute for a lorry truck mind you, but a small car yeah it can do almost as much.”
“Ah okay, well anytime you want, you are welcome to run errands with it.” I said it with a smile.
“Truthfully I have seen pictures of you on a bicycle with a motor. That’s what I would really like next.” she said.
“Well you met the man this afternoon who owns the shop which builds them. I’m sure he would be happy to set you up with one.” I suggested.
“Maybe by the time the scooter goes, I will be able to afford one,” she said with a smile.
“I’m sure you will.” I let it rest a bit then asked, “How do you see this private dormitory thing working?”
“I would guess that there are a hundred kids who would be able to use such a thing.” she said.
“Able to use it yes, but would they. It would be even more restrictive than some of their home lives are now.”
“I suppose that is true. I know at my age bed check would be difficult. Especially if I was still turning tricks.” she laughed at the thought. I loved that she wasn’t taking that part of her life too seriously.
“Oh look, you are on the news,” she said.
“Now what the fuck have I done?” I asked. Sylvia had seen one of those teaser things that end, story after this word from our sponsor. We stayed through the commercial for a furniture store’s upcoming Christmas special just to see what kind of shit I had gotten myself into.
“In a city park, in our bedroom community of Aster yesterday afternoon, a businessman was accosted by two young latino men. They demanded his money and then his car keys. During the robbery this woman came riding to the rescue on a bicycle.”
A TV promo picture of me flashed onto the screen.
“The woman is Maxine Stone, a well known citizen of Aster. She has been active in the community since she retired here from the United States Air Force. Retired Sergeant Stone is no stranger to violence. She has been in and out of dangerous situations for several years. She is also the star of the reality TV Series Hard as Stone. It seems that Ms. Stone is just as hard in real life. The situation ended with the bullies running away.”
She immediately switched to another story. I would rather she have passed over my story all together. “I wonder how the TV got hold of that story in the first place?” I asked no one at all.
“I’ll bet the victim recognized you and wanted to score some points,” Sylvia suggested in her broken English.
“If that is the case, I’m sorry that I stopped.” I looked at the window vacantly then said, “No good deed goes unpunished.”